published Friday, May 25th, 2012

BizBulletin: Internet holiday scams target veterans' funds

Jim Winsett

Q. I see on the internet that there are Memorial Day scams that target military, families, and supporters; could you please advise?

A. Memorial Day is a time to honor those who serve and remember those who have died in war. But sadly, it has also become a key opportunity for scammers to target those who are serving or have served their nation, especially elderly veterans. BBB is urging consumers and donors to be on the lookout for deals that seem too good to be true, and for disreputable charities.

"The unique lifestyle of our service members makes them prime targets for scammers," notes Brenda Linnington, director of the BBB Military Line. "It's imperative that we educate our service members and ensure that the support we give to them equals the effort they make every day on behalf of us."

Linnington said scams can include those that target service personnel and their families directly, but also those that appear to be helping military members via charities.

Donors need to watch out for questionable charities that raise funds on behalf of military organizations. When you make a donation, always check www.give.org to see that the group meets BBB charity standards, especially around Memorial Day. Too many charities fail to meet BBB standards of charitable giving. Solicitors telephone and say the charity supports veterans, service members or their families. When in fact, little of the money donated will serve that purpose.

Among the scams to watch out for:

• Posing as the Veterans Administration and contacting veterans to say they need to update their credit card, bank or other financial records with the VA.

• Charging service members for services they could get for free or less expensively elsewhere, such as military records.

• Fraudulent investment schemes that convince veterans to transfer their assets into an irrevocable trust.

• Offering "instant approval" military loans ("no credit check," "all ranks approved") that can have high interest rates and hidden fees.

• Advertising housing online with military discounts and incentives, and then bilking service personnel out of the security deposit.

• Trying to sell things like security systems to spouses of deployed military personnel by saying the service member ordered it to protect his or her family.

• Selling stolen vehicles at low prices by claiming to be soldiers who need to sell fast because they have been deployed.

• Posing as government contractors recruiting veterans and then asking for a copy of the job applicants' passport (which contains a lot of personal information).

• Posing on online dating services as a lonely service member in a remote part of Iraq or Afghanistan, and then asking for money to be wired to a third party for some emergency.

BBB advises service members, veterans and all consumers never to give personal identification information (Social Security, bank account, military identification or credit card numbers, etc.) to anyone who contacts you by phone or e-mail, and to be wary of any solicitations that involve purchasing something or transferring money. Consumers can check out businesses and charities for free at www.bbb.org.

Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
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